Film (2011). Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment present a Marvel Studios production. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz and Don Payne, story J Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich, based on the comic books created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby. Cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård. 110 minutes. Colour, 3D (converted).
A key component in the ambitious project to recreate a substantial part of the Marvel Comics universe on screen as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a web of interlocking film franchises under the company's studio arm, this is imaginatively a far wilder proposition than any earlier Marvel-branded film, opening out the comparatively conservative palette of Superhero cinema to encompass the Space-Operatic outer reaches of its parent Comics universe with more success than its DC Comics film counterpart Green Lantern (2011). This version of Marvel's heavily-revisited origin story has the Norse god of thunder exiled to Earth for filial insubordination and astropolitical vigilantism as part of a plot by his trickster half-brother Loki to usurp Odin's throne and visit interplanetary genocide on the world of Jotunheim: an unexpectedly science-fictional treatment of Kirby's defining creation, dauntingly tasked with bringing Norse Religion into continuity with the film versions of Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). This it does by explicitly applying the third of Clarke's Laws to the physics of Kirby's audacious hyperlinking of the parallel systems of pagan polytheism and universe-based Superheroes, to a degree never so fully disambiguated by Lee, Kirby, and their successors on the title; the rainbow bridge Bifrost is a Hyperspatial gateway between nine planetary "realms", and the original Norse tales preserve a mythicized memory of terrestrial visitations by unimaginably advanced technocrats.
The recruitment of Branagh was a coup for the studio, enabling a largely meretricious trade on his Shakespearean reputation to dignify a narrative of father-son-sibling rivalries as something more elevated than the Hollywood boilerplate it is. In fact Branagh – whose earlier sf incursion was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), and who replaced Matthew Vaughn (see X-Men: First Class  in X-Men Films) at a comparatively early stage in the project's development – takes the material enthusiastically on its terms, relishing the clash between the dissonant filmic worlds of semi-abstract Kirbyesque Valhalla and harshly lit Arizona desert. Hemsworth is adequately charismatic, delivering his lines (which wisely opt out of Lee's colourful faux-archaic idiolect) in a rich basso version of a modern Nordic English accent. A sequel, without Branagh, was swiftly greenlit. [NL]
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